A faster rollout of renewable energies such as wind and solar is the best response to recent spikes in gas and power prices, an EU official said on Wednesday (29 September), repeating earlier statements by the European Commission.
Energy prices have surged recently as rising global demand has collided with tight gas and coal supply, unfavourable weather for renewables, and European Union resolve to boost the price of carbon emissions permits.
“The solution, in the longer run, is the accelerated deployment of renewables and improved energy efficiency,” said the EU Commissions head of renewables & energy system integration, Lukasz Kolinski.
“We must keep investing in wind and solar to have more days when renewables are setting the price. Today’s situation underlines that we have to limit our dependence on foreign fossil fuels as soon as possible,” he told speakers at a web event hosted by European electricity lobby Eurelectric.
As fossil fuel prices have soared, the cost of renewable generation keeps falling, the EU’s top climate chief said two weeks ago.
“Instead of being paralysed or slowing things down because of the price hike now in the energy sector, we should speed things up in the transition to renewable energy so that affordable renewable energy becomes available for everyone,” said Frans Timermans, the European Commission’s vice-president in charge of the Green Deal.
“That is, I think, the lesson we should draw from the present situation,” Timmermans told lawmakers on 14 September.
The European Commission is currently preparing a “toolbox” of measures that EU governments can use to tackle the ongoing energy price surge without compromising the bloc’s single market. EU heads of states and governments will discuss the situation at their next summit meeting on 21 October.
Electrification is the bloc’s desired route to achieve more ambitious climate targets up to 2030.
It would help cut emissions fast, as the energy sector accounts for 75% of total EU emissions.
“We have to think carefully about a system that provides for consistent low prices for electricity so that we can do the transition in our sector and also electrify while keeping citizens happy about energy prices,” said Eurelectric Secretary General Kristian Ruby.
Eurelectric says renewable power can deliver easier and cheaper emissions savings than those to be expected from hard-to-decarbonise industries.
With its 2030 package of energy and climate laws tabled in July, “Europe’s electricity could be carbon free five to ten years earlier than previously anticipated,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of EDF and President of Eurelectric.
Electricity can directly supply battery-driven vehicles and fuel cells and engines driven with “green” hydrogen derived from renewables via electrolysis.
But the approvals process for new capacity such as onshore and offshore wind farms must be quicker, Eurelectric argues. “Especially permitting lead times for new power projects must be shortened as a matter of priority,” Ruby said.
Two-thirds of EU electricity was carbon-free in 2020 and the percentage should rise to 85% in 2030, Eurelectric projects.
To achieve this, charges on electricity must be reduced, Eurelectric argues, saying that taxes and levies have risen 29% since 2010, preventing consumers from adopting cleaner alternatives for transport, heating and cooling, and industrial processes.